Media persons, who waited for two long hours at the State Secretariat where Chief minister M Karunanidhi held a meeting with officials to discuss the issue of distribution of free colour televisions, had to return disappointed as he did not offer any byte on the arrest of former telecom minister A Raja.
The DMK officially clammed up without any reaction to the arrest of Raja, whom the party was defending through a Raja is innocent campaign to counter the opposition tirade on the 2G Spectrum scam.
The DMK headquarters at Tenyampet in central Chennai wore a deserted look with none of the leaders present there. The party is holding its crucial general council meeting here on Thursday, where the Raja issue is likely to come up when it meets to discuss election strategy for the assembly polls.
The chief minister is expected to make the final speech, sometime towards the evening after a day-long deliberations of party leaders from all over the state, where he will indicate what the party would do in the wake of the arrest of Raja and how to counter its impact in the elections.
While DMK officially maintained silence over the arrest, some leaders privately admit that the issue would cost the party dear. Requesting not to be named, a senior party leader said pressure would now mount on DMK supremo from within the family – union chemicals minister MK Alagiri and deputy chief minister MK Stalin – to distance the party from Raja.
Pressure from within the party to oust Raja is expected to gain momentum as he is being seen now more of a liability. “Some action like stripping the former telecom minister of the party post that he holds as propaganda secretary may be considered,” said another leader requesting annonnimity.
So far, Karunanidhi has defended Raja stoutly but had publically stated that he would lose no time to take action against Raja if he was proven guilty.
DMK sources however said that arrest would in no way make any difference to its alliance with the Congress as “it is a technical matter. The case was progressing and the arrest was a likely option, which has now taken place. This in no way is going to change DMK’s equation with the Congress for the assembly elections,” he said.
This gains credence from the views expressed by political commentator Cho Ramaswamy. He did not see any seriousness of intent and purpose in the CBI action to punish the guilty and he saw this move merely as one to hoodwink the people and tell the Supreme Court that action is being taken. More important, it is a move to ward off opposition demand for JPC, he said.
He also did not see much strain in DMK-Congress relations at this point in time “since DMK wants the Congress and need it to protect the chief minister and his family.”
“But if the Congress wants to win over the people of Tamil Nadu, it should jettison DMK, so that it can prove to the people of Tamil Nadu that it was not involved in the mega scandal,” Cho said. Asked if he saw any dissonance within the DMK on the Raja issue, the veteran political commentator felt that “Karunanidhi may say that he is only arrested and let us wait till he is proven guilty by the courts.”
Janata Party leader Subramaniam Swamy, whose petition in Supreme Court triggered off it all, told press persons that “it is the beginning of change in Tamil Nadu politics”. It is a rich tribute to the Constitution that it has happened.
Now the CBI has to submit its report to the Supreme Court and charges will be framed by the court and the proceedings would be in the direction of who else Raja has benefitted. Then there is a case of disproportionate assets case against Raja.
“But Raja is the small fry, the bigger fish are free,” he said adding that “these powerful people have to be made accountable.” He said he would file another petition for this.
Panruti S Ramachandran a senior leader of DMDK party floated by actor Vijayakant said: “Raja’s arrest is expected one and it may not have any impact on the formation of electoral alliances. The DMK may take some namesake disciplinary action against Raja like suspending him from the party and try to distance itself from him.”
On the alliance of his party with AIADMK he said, “We have made our position clear – removal of the corrupt DMK government- and be part of a suitable formation to achieve that.”
On the issue of Congress wanting DMDK to go it alone or be part of the DMK alliance Ramachandran said: “We have to save politics from Karunanidhi’s family.”